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Rangers Vs. Lightning: Well, There’s The Offense

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NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at New York Rangers Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
  • The Rangers’ offense keeps getting tested. They’ve won games where they’ve had to bail out Henrik Lundqvist or the defense. They’ve won games where they’ve had to do all the transition work because the defense can’t do it for them. They’ve won games where they haven’t played well, but did enough on special teams to eek by. Sunday night the offense simply blew by the Lightning with talent and speed. It’s been a long, long, long time since the Rangers have had this complete of an offense. Even the 2014 run to the Stanley Cup didn’t boast such an explosive offense, and there’s something genuinely exciting about that.
  • The question is how long the Rangers can sustain this type of attacking strategy. Let me be clear, Nick Holden has his best game as a Ranger last night and I hardly noticed Dan Girardi (that’s a good thing) but the Rangers are still getting so little transition from their defense that the whole system seems to be fragile.
  • J.T. Miller had a goal and two assists. He now has nine points in nine games and is just three points behind Connor McDavid for the NHL lead. I know, it’s a small sample size, but it’s still pretty cool to see.
  • Kevin “Lazy” Hayes (boy those narratives have sure disappeared, no?) had three assists including a jaw-dropping deke around Victor Hedman to make a ridiculous pass to Michael Grabner for his hat-trick goal. Hayes has been very. very good this year, and is doing a lot more work to crash the net to create opportunities. Not only that, he’s setting other players up more and is far more comfortable with the puck on his stick. It’s making an enormous difference. Remember when people wanted to trade him?
  • Jimm Vesey. I mean, what more can you say? The kid has five goals in nine games (six points), is a much better passer than advertised and keeps making things happen. I will keep saying it: I knew he was going to be good, but I didn’t know he was going to be this good this soon.
  • Rick Nash just doing more Rick Nash things. He’s been the best forward in all three zones all year for the Rangers. Last night he notched a goal to open the scoring and an assist.
  • Oddly enough Nash (35% corsi, -5 in shots), Vesey (41% corsi, -4 in shots) and Stepan (41% corsi, -4 in shots) all were in the worst department when it came to possession. Some of this I think had to do with the first 10 minutes of the third where the Rangers weren’t just sitting back but were literally trying to go home.
  • And, of course, the man of the hour: Grabner. He had a hat trick (his third, fourth and fifth goals of the year) and was as dominant as he has been all year. He’s had an absurd number of breakaway chances and is more dangerous on the penalty kill than even strength sometimes. He’s the type of guy who scores two or three game-winning goals in the playoffs. The Rangers have that kind of forward depth. It’s awesome. He’s also part of what’s become a really good fourth line (funny how important that is, no?) that’s made a huge difference for the Rangers.
  • Like I said, that was Holden’s best game, although it still came with a few flaws. Whatever, if he can string together more nights like that there will be far less complains. Although I will say it’s not a good look that Adam Clendneing can’t find his way into the lineup while Holden’s mistakes are forgiven on the spot. Clendening had a better game against Washington (his last game) than Holden did last night, and he’s still sitting, so ...
  • Ryan McDonagh had an assist streak going that I didn’t know about. He has gone eight games with an assist — including last night. McDonagh was a monster and has eight points in nine games.
  • The Rangers power play was pretty bad. The five-on-three wasn’t a disaster, but it wasn’t great, either. I’m not sure why the plan isn’t to simply set Mika Zibanejad up in the circle and just feed him pucks but whatever.
  • Pavel Buchnevich had a really noticeable game. Set up a few chances and had two or three good whacks at a lose puck. He’s still looking for his first NHL goal. Still, he led the Rangers in possession (+11 in shots and a 67% corsi) and had a great game. I think Vesey’s goals have outshined him a little, but Buchnevich is far more polished. When he gets that first goal the floodgates are going to open.
  • Brady Skjei might have had his best game as a Ranger, too. He made an insane pass (after an insane pass from Hayes to him) for Grabner’s second goal. Played a solid game (58% corsi) and hopefully he builds on it.
  • Oh, Antti Raanta was really good too.